Football

Kalani Sitake on Leading BYU into Big 12: ‘It Means the World to Me’

NCAA Football: Brigham Young at Utah State

BYU head coach Kalani Sitake is busy on Wednesday due to National Signing Day, but he’s still preparing his Cougars for the move to the Big 12 Conference in 2023.

Before everything got busy, Sitake spent some time talking with CBS Sports’ Jim Rome about the move to the Big 12, saying it “means the world to be here.”

 

But Sitake’s comments and emotions quickly moved to his connections to BYU, which go beyond being its head coach. Sitake grew up a BYU fan, played for BYU, and coached at BYU before finally taking over as head coach in 2016.

“I grew up a BYU fan and for me to grow up and dream of being able to play for a BYU legend like LaVell Edwards, and then I got to play for him,” Sikake said. I got to be one of his last captains before he stopped coaching. The stadium was named for him before he stopped coaching and while I was playing for him. Now I get to come back and be the head coach here. The last year (Edwards) was alive on this earth was my first year as head coach here.”

Edwards led BYU from 1972-2000, the entirety of his head-coaching career. He won 257 games and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2000. Edwards led BYU to a national title in 1984, coached Ty Detmer to a Heisman Trophy in 1990, and mentored a run of quarterbacks from Jim McMahon and Marc Wilson to Steve Young and Detmer, along with current Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian.

Sitake joined BYU in 1994, and then returned to the Cougars from 1997-2000 after his mission trip. After playing fullback, he spent one year in the NFL with Cincinnati before returning to BYU as a graduate assistant. He coached at Southern Utah from 2003-04 and at Utah from 2005-14 before spending the 2015 season at Oregon as its assistant head coach and defensive coordinator.

Since taking over at BYU, the Cougars have been a football independent. In seven seasons he has a record of 56-34 with a 4-2 record in bowl games. He and the Cougars beat Baylor earlier this season and won the New Mexico Bowl to finish 8-5. In 2020 he led the Cougars to an 11-1 record, followed by a 10-3 2021.

It’s clear that Edwards’ mentorship of Sitake carries over into his coaching philosophy with the Cougars.

 

“I tried to take as much knowledge as I possibly could from him and I’ve remained close with his family,” Sitake said. “It’s important for me to allow what he’s done as a head coach for me, as a former player, to have that same type of mindset and have the same type of environment for our players. It meant the world to me when I played here and I hope to do something very similar. It’s just — I’ve said this before — what I’m doing is not really original or unique to me. This is what LaVell did for me when I was a player. I really enjoyed it and I’m hoping I can do it for this generation.”

BYU, Cincinnati, Houston, and UCF will join the Big 12 on July 1, 2023.

You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard

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